GREENWICH — Sunday night’s boys hockey game between Greenwich and Fairfield Warde-Ludlowe was tied after the second period, but it didn’t take long for the Cardinals to take, then increase, their lead in the third period.
As Greenwich coach Chris Rurak emphasized, that’s the difference depth can make for a team.
Skating four lines throughout the first two periods, the Cardinals had a lot of energy heading into the final period and it showed.
A four-goal third period powered Greenwich to its fifth straight win, a 5-1 triumph over Fairfield Warde-Ludlowe co-op in an FCIAC game held at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink.
“It’s called depth,” Rurak said of his team’s strong third period. “We can run four lines for the first two periods in a tie game. Then when we decided to flex our muscles, we can shorten our bench a little bit in the third period and are top two lines are fresh.”
Such has been the scenario during the Cardinals’ current success streak, where they have been finishing games with a flurry.
“As the third period comes along, all the forwards’ legs are much healthier and stronger and that changes things later on,” said GHS senior defenseman Ryan Columbo, one of the squad’s captains. “My legs are much stronger as well.”
Columbo registered two goals and sophomore forward Ivan Kovalev tallied one goal and one assist for the Cardinals (6-4, 3-0 FCIAC).
Also pacing the Cards offensively were junior forward Jack Hutchins (one goal), sophomore forward Liam Matthews (one goal), sophomore forward Wesley Zolin (two assists) and junior forward Thatcher Danielson (two assists).
“We have been in close games in the third period all year and now it’s starting to bounce our way,” Rurak said. “The scoring for us comes from all over.”
Sophomore Charlie Zolin got the win in goal, recording 32 saves, a number of which came during the first two periods.
“Charlie Zolin kept us in the game,” Rurak said. “The game could have gotten away from us early.”
Fairfield received a second-period goal from senior James Pisciotta, who centers one of his squad’s top lines. Pisciotta’s goal knotted the score at 1-1 in the second period.
“We played great,” Warde-Ludlowe coach Carl Larouche said. “Our goal is to limit time, limit space and I thought we did a very good job of that. Our forwards did a very good job of forechecking.”
On a power-play Greenwich scored the go-ahead goal with 11:34 remaining in the third period. Columbo went top shelf with his snap shot, beating senior goalie Jordan Verchin (28 saves) to his stick side.
At the 7:17 mark of the third period, Columbo gave the Cards a 3-1 advantage, converting a shot from just below the blue line that zipped past everyone and found its way inside the left post.
“That was a snipe,” Rurak said of Columbo’s goal. “His game has elevated and he’s providing great leadership, as are all of our captains.”
Matthews’ first career goal came off an assist from junior defenseman Sean Duffy with 5:21 to go in the final period.
“It was pretty fun, I was pumped up,” Matthews said of his first career tally. “Sean Duffy got the puck and took it wide, Sean is good at getting to the net an making good plays, and I just crashed the net. There was a good shot on goal off the goalie’s pad and I just put it in the goal.”
Kovalev’s goal off a rebound on Danielson’s shot with 1:20 left in the third period sealed the scoring.
“The first two periods we were a little shaky, a little slow, but the third period we shot out of the gates and went right at them,” Columbo said. “We used our plays that we practiced.”
A scoreless first period saw both squads generate numerous opportunities. Both team’s penalty kill was on point, as the squad’s combined for five penalties in the opening period.
Gathering the puck in front, off a pass from Kovalev, Hutchins registered the game’s first goal 24 seconds into the second period, giving GHS a 1-0 lead.
Zolin kept the home team in front the majority of the second period, helping the Cardinals fend off a power-play in the process. He made a pair of saves with the visitors on a power-play and generating pressure behind sophomore winger Matthew Jankovsky and junior forward Davies Rhys.
Fairfield (7-5, 2-2 FCIAC) tallied made it 1-1 with 4:41 to go in the second period. Jankovsky sent a back pass to Pisciotta, who from between the circles, snuck the puck past Zolin.
“I like the way our team played,” Larouche said. “I know the score was 5-1, but I thought the team overall, played a very good game.”
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Columbo gave the Cardinals the spark they needed, tallying early in the third period, before notching his second goal. Zolin and the Cards’ defensemen were solid throughout against an aggressive Fairfield co-op squad.
“Greenwich did a good job, they played a good third period,” Larouche said. “They were shooting more and they were looking for rebounds and did a good job in that area.”
Matthews is one of several sophomores on the Cardinals that is making an impact.
“Everyone is great on the team, they will help you whenever you need it,” said Matthews, who is in his first season on the squad. “The speed at this level is a big step up for me. I have neer played with this much speed. It has helped me out.”
Fairfield faces Trumbull on Wednesday. Greenwich has a busy week. The Cardinals play Wilton on Wednesday, Westhill-Stamford Friday, then travel to Rhode Island for games against LaSalle Academy and Bishop Hendriken on Saturday and Sunday.
“I feel like this year we have the full package, from the goaltending to the defense to the forwards,” Rurak said.